Plenty of Philly-related releases this month
OCTOBER'S A busy month for new releases from Philly-linked artists, such as:
* Musiq Soulchild and Syleena Johnson, "9ine" (Shanachie). The neo-soul movement that Soulchild helped promote has run out of steam. So the artist a/k/a Taalib Johnson and the seasoned soul singer (no relation) are taking the music down Jamaica way on this collaborative set. Chillin' originals go down easy, though too many groove like Toots and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop."
* Dr. Dog, "B-Room" (Anti). Dropping today, after a nice Pandora preview, the Dog's still howling with those distinctively baleful vocals and, on early tracks, earthy, Philacana-blues vibes. But the old Dog has new tricks with flashback psychedelic pieces like "Cuckoo" and "Twilight" (dig the theremin), the Brian Wilson-esque "Nellie" and an anthemic homage to "Love" that will have you humming along first time you hear it.
* Elvis Costello and the Roots, "Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs" (Blue Note). Having worked together several times on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," Declan (Elvis) and Questlove (Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson) hatched this project. Still sounds like Costello - his minimalist, singsong tune sense is boringly intact, his lyricism in bitter blue mode. But the production's all fussed up with hip-hop samples and rhythms intended to make Costello more relevant. Interesting, yes. But not really living up to the billing. There isn't a whiff of Roots rapper Black Thought anywhere.
* David Bromberg Band, "Only Slightly Mad" (Appleseed). Philly-born, now Wilmington-based Bromberg had a brittle, wizened, wiseacre blues/folk attitude four decades ago. He still does, which is why his new variety pack (old-timey and new blues, country, Celtic) sounds as sharply honed and funny as he did back then. Bromberg's testifying triumph
"I'll Take You Back" (well, maybe on the 12th of Never) reigns supreme. It's in excellent company with "Drivin' Wheel," "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and the vow "I'll Rise Again."
* Man Man, "On Oni Pond" (Anti). Given the mostly rotating set of band members around front guy Honus Honus and the newfound intrusions of producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit), it shouldn't shock loyalists that the "group" has turned away from Zappa/Beefheart-style gonzo rock experimentalism. This fifth set finds them going for big hooks and lusher arrangements, with nods to classic soul, hip-hop, '50s rock and skitterish, Talking Heads traumatics. If you never liked them before, you might now. I had fun at Man Man's recent free set at The Porch outside 30th Street Station, but I still wouldn't book a nighttime passage.
* Mario Lanza, "The Toast of Hollywood" (TCM/Masterworks). Yeah, South Philly spawned a heck of a singer named Lanza, long before the Queen Village park was named after him. Made in the movies, the guy virtually invented (along with Nelson Eddy) the pop-opera genre ruled now by guys like Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli. Tied in to a run of Lanza movies that played recently on TCM, this two-CD set bathes deep in the tenor's lushest, big-budget sound-track work.
- Jonathan Takiff